Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 / Matthew 25:1-13
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes
November 9, 2014
In everything that we do in life, we make choices. Whether we prioritize to go to church or just stay in bed because there is a game or party we are preparing to attend on a Sunday. Whether we dress good for Church or only when we go for a wedding or a banquet. We make choices whether we sit with someone we haven’t sat for a long time and share story, or just stay with the group whom we are comfortable sitting with. Whether we give and pledge for the programs of the Church or spend it somewhere else in the blink of an eye. It’s all about choices. We need to set priorities
It was by choice that I chose to follow the voice of God when he called me to enter seminary in 1990, until I was ordained to the Diaconate in 1994 and eventually to the Priesthood in August of 1997. It was by choice that I left my full time Nursing career to serve full time with Holy Child and St. Martin 6 years ago in november of 2008. It was your choice to keep me in this Church that I made it thus far. But when we look from a wider and broader perspective view, God chooses us all to grow and flourish in this Church and this community. It will then be our choice if we let it die or we value the gift God has given us and endeavor to take care of it as good stewards of God and begin to enter into a new haven where God commanded life, even life forevermore.
Three years from now, we are being challenged to make choice whether we continue to be a comfortable Mission station or grow and explore possibilities of becoming a self supporting, self reliant, self governing and self sustaining parish. If I am to choose where HCSM should endeavor to travel, I would choose to explore new roads where no one or few have travelled, and start anew with fresh vision and mission.
In the Old Testament reading this morning, Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” The children of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land. This was a drastic change in their lives. They had spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. They had lived in tents and were about to begin living in houses. Their entire way of life was about to undergo a drastic change.
That is so with us. When our lives change, choices have to be made. You know people are more likely to get involved meaningfully in a church when they have recently moved. Joshua knew this. Many of their ancestors had worshiped the gods in Egypt. They had worshipped the one true God in the wilderness. But the people of the land they were entering worshipped a whole different set of gods.
What would they worship: the gods from Egypt, the gods of the Canaanites, or the one true God? They needed to make an intentional decision. They would end up worshipping something. They needed to set their standards and priorities before circumstances pushed them into choices they would regret.
At the end of the reading we learn that they made the right choice. They said, “We will serve the Lord for he brought us out of slavery and cared for us in the wilderness.” But this was a big choice. Did they really mean it? Were they taking this decision seriously or would they forget it when they settled down in a house and their neighbors were worshipping the gods of the land?
So Joshua forced the issue. He said “No, you can’t be serious. God will take you seriously and there will be consequences if you go back on your word.”
It is very important to understand that the decision to serve God is a serious one. If you decide to serve the Lord it will affect your whole life. It is not just a commitment to show up to church once in a while if it is convenient. It means that every day every action every moment is to be lived for the Lord. Sometimes that commitment can be inconvenient or even painful to live out. It means that you no longer belong to yourself, you belong to God!
Despite Joshua’s protests the people insisted, “We will serve God.” Joshua said “Mark your own words, and remember this choice.” So Joshua made a covenant with the people to serve God and God alone. There on the verge of entering the Promised Land the people made a promise to themselves and God. They made the choice to serve God.
That is so with us. Choose this day whom you will serve. Will you serve the gods of this world: the gods of materialism and hatred? Or will you serve the one true God of the Universe who gave the only begotten Son for your liberation. You have to make a choice. Not choosing is itself a choice that will lead to some other god.
We are then challenged with the question, whom will you serve? This is a serious choice. It is not to be taken lightly. To follow Christ is not always a glorious experience, it may also shake the very foundation of your faith. But if you will only persevere, it will change your life. Everything you do, everything you say, will be for God.
Choose this day whom you will serve, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord!
Let me leave you thoughts to ponder as we begin to embrace change in the way we approach service and commitment:
First, I ask you to see things in the eyes of God. Let us see things at Holy Child and St. Martin where everything is possible with God. Trust in God who called us to be in this community for a reason. Be part of the volunteers in our Community Health Clinic. There is so much that we can do in this program such as marketing and letting the community know that we are here for them for free health services such as health education, Blood pressure and other vital sign monitoring, as well as referral program.
Be part of our Bread for the World and feeding the hungry ministries. We do this every monday from 7:30 am to 9 AM, then we continue with dance exercises until 10 am. This ministry is being led by Romy Mijares, Lois Downs and Sobrena Somebang who consistently come early to open the door or pick up the bread every Sunday Night. We have now extended our partnership with Panera bread of Millbrae to service Guadalupe Elementary School in the Excelsior district from the bread Kevin Haas pick up on Tuesday night. I got a report from Teacher Marcia Bowdish that 200 hundred families lined up at the first wednesday bread distribution in that school. Both Monday and Wednesday pick up at Panera Bread are done weekly.
Our youth are preparing to plunge themselves with preparing food and feeding Inn Vision Shelter residents in SSF in December. We will also be in partnership with Daly City Mental Health Clinic in their feeding program supported by the Rev. Dr. Lynn Bowdish.
Be part of ministries God blessed in this Church. The Altar guild led by Lydia Sawachi, Lois Downs and Eloise Milanes are gaining in membership, yet there’s more to do other than setting the flowers, the altar, the pews, the oil and even ironing the linens and vestments. It will be easier if we all put our sleeves together. Our Building and grounds are visited by people everyday by just sitting at the benches or smiling at the beautiful lawn and flowers around. Our Junior Warden Bernard Dayrit is a man of few words but his actions speak a lot when much of our unforeseen building maintenance are taken cared by him unnoticed. Our men’s group led by Fr. Jurek are gaining popularity as they take care of those stuff men of muscles can do such us cleaning up the storage room and preparing them for disaster or emergency purposes. Our seniors led by Maja Milanes, Marietta Flores and Rev. Dr. Lynn Bowdish continue with their bus excursions and arthritis exercises on Monday morning. Ruth Hoppin and Deacon Tricia Rosso are having a powerful educational Bible Study on Saturdays. Deacon Rebecca and our Sunday School Teachers Haidee Oakes and Mirella Pumacayo are having wonderful interactive Sunday School class. Today, we will be recognizing our acolytes and altar servers for their faithfulness in serving at the altar.
Our music ministry need more choir members. We are thankful to be able to incorporate all songs from cultural musics and generational music. However, we need to learn more new songs. With your commitment, we will be able to help our music director. I have asked the Rev. Dr. Lynn Bowdish and Sheri Rubi to chair the stewardship and fundraising committee to study and help boost our budget campaign for the ensuing year. There are many more ministries that you can possibly be part of, if you only see things in the eyes of God.
Lastly, in everything that we do, pray and be thankful. Whether our petitions are answered or being delayed, or not the way we wanted it, pray and be thankful. A lot of times we neglect to pray and be thankful. We are like that student who upon receiving his monthly allowance, he forgets everything and spend it lavishly. When it’s gone, he asks for more without even thanking. In everything, give thanks.
It gives us honor to see some of our veterans in our midst today. Thank you for your service to our country and the world. Thank you for setting us an example worthy to emulate for the cause of freedom and democracy. We remember those who have gone before us, who fought for our freedom. We salute all the men and women in uniform. May God bless you and may God bless this country and all the country we represent.